Words & Photos by Angela Clark
As you walk into Balloch Park every worry and tension slides off your back like a rucksack brick-laden, even the air seems sweeter. A new adventure is about to begin and your thoughts become wild and free like all the trees, grass and wildlife around you.
A wooden mushroom bares to the left as you begin your journey, carved by local man Patrick Muir, who has used his skills to create an exciting walk of fantasy and fun. More carvings come into view further along the path, a little fairy house, sparkling with glitter; a wooden acorn carved so beautifully and life-like that I’m sure the squirrels try to nibble it.
As the journey continues, a spectacular row of trees line the path, each displaying its own natural design of twists and bends – almost as if they have been dancing in the wind when no-one was watching – forming unique shapes and giving each a distinct character.
A particular tree stands out and would put a smile on most folk’s face. Young lovers, maybe old, have carved their initials on the bark of this one, sealing the bond of love and declaring their unity forever.
From this position an opening gives way to spectacular views of Loch Lomond, the neighbouring hills and Balloch Castle.
A specially designed Chinese garden is accessible at the end of the castle wall, the well-tended lawn and fabulous display of trees creates a calm atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. Seated areas are offered if rest and reflection are required before re-joining the path.
As the journey continues a large dragon carved from fallen trees comes into view, the fire-blowing creature generates excitement from all ages, as people hurry over to get a glimpse. The children can jump on its back, give it a kiss or even a name. Some more keen than others as imaginations run wild. Just be careful not to waken it, or you’ll have to run fast.
If an encounter with a fire-breathing dragon doesn’t exhaust the children, further down the path past a large grassy picnic area, two play parks come into view, both with a variety of equipment giving the children plenty to explore.
Whilst watching the children you can take advantage of a selection of light refreshments available from the little Slipway cafe situated beside the pier. With treats to hand, sit down on the sand, kick off your shoes and savour the views – they won’t disappoint. Remember moments of happiness and contentment like these, don’t last long so enjoy it while it lasts.
As the sky begins to darken there’s a slight chill in the air. It’s time to leave, back on to the path, the trees line the way once again swishing side to side and whispering to each other in the light wind that has taken hold.
There is a little bridge that separates the route, giving you an option of going back to where you started or continuing on to a place yet to be explored.
The unexplored path has an array of boats bobbing around in the water, as if they are getting ready for a disco that’s soon to be in full swing. Some half submerged in water, victims to the last event, maybe.
The Silver Dolphin appears in her full glory, the luxurious passenger boat patiently waits at the end of the route, almost teasing people emerging from the park to go on another adventure. Exhausted her offer is reluctantly rejected, there’s been enough excitement for one day.
Satisfied adults are followed by tired children with contentment on their faces and happiness in their hearts as they head for home, a new chapter of precious memories made.
Well, it was really just a walk in the park.